A Time for Drunken Horses

A Time for Drunken Horses ★★★★★

How far would you go to save a loved one?
How far would you go if you could only extend their life for a few months?
How disgusted are you by the implication that the 2nd question could lead to a different answer?

A Time for Drunken Horses focuses on members of a family who do not know that the 2nd question can even be asked. In fact, they wouldn't even understand the first question. They are children. Orphans, to be precise. Their brother Madi has a painful disease that requires daily medication, but he is getting worse. Only surgery will save him. That is all they need to know. They love their brother and he is in pain and he needs surgery.

To say that these children all sacrifice something for their brother, to say that they go above and beyond is to distort the story. There is no above and beyond. There is no idea of sacrifice. There is only love and responsibility and everything that entails. The harshness of the cold in the mountains of the Kurdish village is simply what has to be dealt with. If the only available work is to smuggle a heavy load on one's back across the landmine infested and ambush prone trails from Iran to Iraq, then that is what 12 year old Ayoub will do. If leaving her beloved brothers and sisters to marry a stranger on the promise that the new family will provide Madi with the surgery is what is required, then the eldest sister will do it. No questions are asked, no thing is out of bounds. Their brother needs their help.

A Time for Drunken Horses is one of the most beautiful, honest and gripping stories of courage I have ever seen, told in a straight-forward manner without sentimentality. There is no question in this film of precocious child actors or adult dialogue delivered by children to amuse an adult audience. These kids, all non-actors, are astounding in their honesty. But for one scene that looks a bit scripted, you would swear that these kids don't know they are being filmed, they are that natural. The cinematography follows suit. Nothing is dressed up. The harshness of climate and conditions are displayed in full view, as are the sounds of winter.

I read the following comment in an IMDB review):

"I found it to be unconvincing that Ayoub would risk the immediate future of the rest of his family for the sake of Madi who, lets be honest, was never going to live for very long even with the operation."

This kind of reasoning always shakes me to the core. Thank you to writer/director Bahman Ghobadi for showing us how beautiful and dignified it is to never even consider raising such a question.


Part of the Sunday Mornings with Coffee Series

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